Canadian public service broadcasting in the information age
University of New Brunswick
As governments have adopted an activist role to encourage the growth of the information society based on a technologically progressive agenda framed within a larger neoliberal political and economic discourse, the scope and influence of public service broadcasters like the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) have diminished internationally and nationally. This research study uses the CBC as a single case study to identify, explain and critique changes to the intrinsic meaning of public service broadcasting in the Canadian information society, and whether or not those changes have benefited the public. This research uses a critical neopluralist analysis to improve understanding of the processes and relationships that have an impact on the social, cultural, economic and political role of their public service broadcaster. It addresses a gap in the scholarship through the analysis of the form, function, processes and directions of influence in late capitalism (Macpherson, 1977) on the Canadian public service broadcasting ethos. The concept of public service broadcasting in Canada has traditionally been simultaneously nationalistic and divisive, as a managerial approach by the federal government excluded provincial, regional and local influence over both the broadcasting system as a whole, and the CBC in particular. Original research provides evidence that over the last forty years, Canadian communications policy has increasingly favoured economic objectives over social and cultural goals, and that the CBC has reinvented itself as a cross-platform 'content company.' The CBC, as a national institution in the hybrid Canadian public service broadcasting system, has faced numerous challenges in its attempts to be universal, independent, diverse and distinctive. Some long-standing issues are the challenges of covering a large land mass, reconciling conflicting expectations for local, regional and national levels of service, as well as serving the needs of a neopluralist population with diverse cultural and linguistic requirements. The political climate and societal changes associated with the expansion of the information society have both exacerbated old challenges and presented new ones. The process has undermined not only the ethos of public service in media, but also the credibility and the integrity of the CBC. However, these changes have also presented opportunities to re-think technologically-constrained expectations of the media, and to reconfigure the traditionally limited perception of the very "public" that the CBC is mandated to serve.